Urban-rural gradients are a powerful organizing tool for ecological research on urban influences on ecosystems, and an appropriate framework to study socio-ecological issues related to quality of life and human well-being, which is inherently linked to the provision of urban and ecosystem services. Quantifying the provision of ecosystem services in landscapes of varying configuration according to their connectivity with a major urban centre is a first step toward understanding the function of urban-rural gradients. We assessed the effect of land use change on the trade-off and synergies among 10 ecosystem services (ES) along an urban-rural gradient in Central Spain. We inferred the provision of ES at municipality level, based on proxies from socio-economic data and land use maps of 1991 and 2011. ES were related to the provision of agricultural goods and meat, regulation of water flows, air, pollination and erosion, and cultural services such as protected areas, goods of cultural interest and touristic lodging. Landscape configuration was assessed through 8 metrics (LM) calculated from classified Landsat images of the same dates. Using a multivariate analysis ((36 municipalities x 2 time) x (10 ES + 8 LM)), we ordered municipalities according to the services provided, their landscape configuration and their temporal evolution in a decade. The first two axes of the ordination plane together explain 59.08% of the variance. Axis one reflects a gradient associated to provisioning services: from agricultural goods on one end (agricultural municipalities) to meat production in the opposite end of the axis (silvo-pastoral municipalities). This last service is associated to regulating services (erosion control, pollinators, clean air). The second axis (18.75%) explains the variation existing between silvo-pastoral municipalities, with those that maintain a productive activity, characterized by provisioning services in the positive end and those where traditional rural activities have been abandoned and are now characterized by cultural services. The temporal evolution of municipalities in a decade is mainly related to this axis, reflecting the abandonment of traditional silvo-pastoral activities. This is associated with increased provision of cultural services (places in hotel establishments) and with regulating services such as clean air and control of erosion, related to the presence of protected areas. Our analysis shows that the landscape configuration of municipalities associated with the provision of agricultural goods is characterized by large patches poorly connected among themselves (high contrast), whereas silvo-pastoral landscapes are more heterogeneous and show a better connectivity. This work represents a first approach to the linkage of landscape configuration and ES along urban-rural gradients, which is a powerful tool for socio-ecological planning of the territory.
Schmitz, M.F.; De Aranzabal, I.; Aguilera, P.; Rescia, A.; Pineda, F.D. 2003. Relationship between landscape typology and socioeconomic structure. Scenarios of change in Spanish cultural landscapes. Ecological Modelling 168: 343-356.